MOSS LANDING — Monterey County officials announced the shelter-in-place advisory and all road closures for the Moss Landing fire incident were lifted Tuesday night.
“Although the fire is considered fully contained, smoke may still occur in the area for several days,” the county news release said.
Highway 1 had been closed in both directions Tuesday morning after a fire was detected at the PG&E Elkhorn battery storage facility.
According to Jeff Smith, a PG&E spokesman, officials became aware of a fire in a Tesla Megapack at PG&E’s Elkhorn Battery Storage Facility in Monterey County at 1:30 a.m. Tuesday.
“PG&E is working with firefighters to stop the spread of the fire and provide a safe area for emergency response personnel,” he said by email.
The North County Fire Department and Monterey County Sheriff’s Office had issued a shelter-in-place notice Tuesday morning for areas of Moss Landing west of Dolan Road/Via Tanques, south of Struve Road and north of Potrero Road.
Local residents with valid identification were allowed to cross the closed area to return home.
“There is an ongoing hazmat incident at Moss Landing. Please close your windows and turn off your ventilation systems. If weather conditions change, affected areas may change,” Monterey County spokeswoman Maia Carroll said in an email.
North County Fire Protection District Capt. John Hasslinger said when firefighters arrived on the scene, one of the batteries was actively burning.
“He was well involved when we arrived,” he said by phone Tuesday afternoon. “We had a lot of training with PG&E and Vistra, the two companies that have these battery storage facilities here – training before they even built the factory – so we knew the procedures on what to do . When one of these battery packs is actively burning, we are not attacking the fire directly…we are not trying to put out the fire itself. We basically protect the exhibits around it, protect other batteries.
Hasslinger said firefighters shielded the other batteries and by Tuesday afternoon most of the smoke from the burning battery had cleared.
“It was pretty much contained in this battery (which was on fire),” he said. “With the work of the firefighters and the security system itself that was designed into the system, it worked as expected.”
According to Hasslinger, the shelter-in-place notice was “primarily due to smoke” from the fire. He said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials developed a point plume model to predict where the smoke column would go, which officials used for the advisory.
Kevin Drabinski, a spokesperson for Caltrans, said the California Highway Patrol contacted Caltrans early Tuesday morning to arrange the shutdown.
Meranda Cohn, spokeswoman for Vistra, said the company’s power plant in Moss Landing, adjacent to PG&E’s battery facility and substation, was unaffected by the fire.
“Our equipment is safe and unaffected,” Cohn said in an email.
Vistra hosts its own energy storage facility at its Moss Landing facility. The batteries put out smoke on September 4, 2021 and again on February 13 this year.
According to PG&E, there were no injuries to on-site personnel at the battery storage facility. Smith said the facility’s security systems were operating as intended when the issue was detected and automatically disconnected the battery storage facility from the power grid.
“The safety of our customers, employees, contractors and the communities we serve is PG&E’s top priority,” he said, adding that there were no power outages for customers. due to the incident on Tuesday morning.
The PG&E Elkhorn battery storage facility became fully operational in April. It was designed and is maintained by PG&E and Tesla, and is owned and operated by PG&E. It can store and send up to 730 megawatt hours of energy to the California power grid at a maximum rate of 182.5 megawatts for up to four hours during peak demand periods. That’s enough to power 225,000 homes in Monterey County.
The closure disrupted the morning commute for many Monterey Bay Area residents, causing major delays and traffic congestion.
“There are a number of detours available, but that also impacts those routes, they’re not used to taking that overflow,” Drabinski said.